The BBQ season (charcoal only… gas grills never apply) is fully upon us in South Florida. Okay, so actually, the BBQ season stays upon us 80% of the year… maybe 90%… okay 99.9% including the hurricane season when BBQ-ing is our first and most enjoyable cooking method while we wait for power to be restored… but the rest of the world has joins in the BBQ mayhem during the summer. Setting up the grill and inviting folks over for a BBQ can go wonderfully memorable or incredibly horrible. I once went to a backyard BBQ where the chicken was gorgeous on the outside, seasoned nicely, and charred from the grill. However, the inside was raw!
Then there is the under seasoned potato salad; the soggy coleslaw; the generic hamburger buns; the syrupy sweet baked beans; or the burnt – not nicely charred; but, BURNT – ribs; or the tough ribs by the impatient grill master… the horror stories are endless. The stress on the host, who is often the cook, is insurmountable as they are often fretting around to make sure everyone is happy; that all of the hot food stays hot and that all of the cold foods, especially those that are mayo based, stay cold. Meanwhile, there is an on-going battle with the flies and mosquitoes… or the guests who want to snack on the kid-friendly hotdogs before the rest of the food is ready. And the kids who want the McDonalds burger since the hotdogs are now gone.
Okay – so there is ONE GREAT HUGE redeeming quality about a BBQ: The Food taste so good!
Now, any eater worth their salt knows that the best thing about eating any food is the condiments, sauces, and/or spices. Any cook worth their salt knows that the eater is right! This is even more aptly true when setting up for a BBQ. You can get away with a very minimal menu (for example… grilled chicken, chopped salad, and grilled flat breads… and a raspberry slushy for dessert) if the everything is seasoned properly and there are a few relishes, salsas, or sauces to accompany the meal.
Therefore, on this installation In Good T.A.S.T.E, I offer a collection of spice rubs, relishes, pickles….and other condiments for the BBQ season. Feel free to use them in any combination that suits your taste buds.
I am not a huge fan of the wet marinade when it comes to the BBQ. Wet marinades tend to make the meat mushy and I just think that they are too messy. I prefer dry spice rubs. Dry spice rubs hold up to the long, slow cooking of the BBQ and they will not burn. Sprinkle the rub liberally onto the meat anywhere from the night before to an hour before. I start with a basic spice rub and I add additional herbs and spices based on the flavor profile I want to achieve – i.e., Southwestern, Asian, Mediterranean, Greek, Moroccan, etc.
The Basic Spice Rub makes almost three cups and will last indefinitely in an airtight container.
My Recipe: BASIC SPICE RUB makes approx 3 cups
1 c light brown sugar
1 c kosher salt
½ c paprika
¼ c cracked black pepper
¼ c granulated garlic powder
¼ c dry mustard powder
1 T red pepper flakes
Combine all ingredients a bowl and mix well; Store in an air-tight container
For a Southwestern Spice Rub: Add 1 T cumin, dried oregano, and chili powder to 1 c of the Basic Spice Rub
For an Asian Spice Rub: Add 1 T dried ginger powder and 1 t toasted sesame seeds to 1 c of the Basic Spice Rub
For a Greek Spice Rub: Add 1 T dried oregano and 2 T fresh lemon zest to 1 c of the Basic Spice Rub
For a Mediterranean Spice Rub: Add 1 T dried rosemary and 2 T fresh lemon zest to 1 c of the Basic Spice Rub
For a Moroccan Spice Rub: Add 1 T dried thyme, 1 t ground cinnamon, 2 T fresh orange zest, and 1 t ground cayenne pepper
RELISHES, PICKLES, & TAPENADES
Relishes, pickles, and tapenades are pretty much in the same category. They are also ideal for a BBQ because they are not commonly mayo based; they hold up well in the heat; they don’t require any additional treatment are assembling the ingredients; and they taste good. Imagine the flavor of a rich, smoky, and charred steak or chicken merryland doused with a sweet Roasted Pepper Tapenade or contrasting spicy Pikliz.
Roasted Red Pepper Tapenade takes advantage of the summer vegetable bounty of peppers. You can roast the peppers on the grill or in the oven for 15 minutes under the broiler. In a pinch, good quality, canned red roasted peppers can stand in for the fresh peppers.
My Recipe: ROASTED RED PEPPER TAPENADE makes approx 1 cup
2 red bell peppers, cut in half and seeds removed
1 green bell pepper, cut in half and seeds removed
1 med yellow onion, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
½ c balsamic vinegar
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T canola oil, divided
2 T fresh thyme, finely chopped
2 T capers, finely chopped
1T granulated sugar
kosher salt, to taste
cracked black pepper, to taste
Rub 1 T of canola oil over the pepper halves, place on grill, or under a broiler, and roast until the skins start to blister and turn black; remove from the heat, place in a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and allow the peppers to sweat for 10 – 15 minutes
Meanwhile, sauté onion and garlic in remaining canola oil until onions become translucent; Add balsamic vinegar and sugar; bring to a boil; and remove from heat
Add thyme, capers, and red wine vinegar to the onion-balsamic mixture; combine well
Remove peppers from the bowl; and remove the charred blistered skins; do not rinse the peppers or place them under running water
Dice the peppers and add them to the remaining ingredients; season with kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste
One of my favorite pickles is Pikliz, a bracingly spicy Haitian condiment that is utterly addictive. I keep a container of Pikliz in my refrigerator year round and I use it on everything from meat, seafood, rice, beans, and fried green plantains. It will last indefinitely in the refrigerator. What is even better? After you eat all of the pickles, you can just add more vegetables to the brine for the next time.
Scotch Bonnet or Habanero peppers bring the fiery heat to this pickle. To adjust the heat, use less or more peppers. I have also used serrano, jalapeno, Thai bird chili, and cayenne peppers to make Pikliz with successful results.
My Recipe: PIKLIZ makes approx 2quarts
½ small cabbage, finely shredded
1 med yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 med carrot, peeled and grated
4 – 6 scotch bonnet or habanero peppers, finely chopped
1 – 2 garlic clove, finely minced, optional
3 cups white or apple cider vinegar
4 T kosher salt, divided
4 black whole black peppercorns, optional
Place cabbage, yellow onion, carrot, hot peppers, and garlic, if using, in a large non-reactive mixing bowl; sprinkle with 2 T kosher salt; mix thoroughly; and allow to sit for 15 minutes (the salt will draw some liquid out of the cabbage – do not discard this liquid)
Add the vinegar, peppercorns, if using, and remaining kosher, to taste
Store Pikliz in a air-tight plastic or glass container in the refrigerator for 24 hours to allow the flavors to meld
SAUCES & BUTTERS
In culinary school, I once wrote a paper on BBQ sauces – the sauce of summer. You would think that it is not much to write about BBQ sauce until you start the research. In the south alone, BBQ sauce differs from state to state. The Carolinas lay claim to a sweet tomato based BBQ sauce and a mustard-based sauce. Alabama have an affinity for a mayo-based sauce and Texas spikes their tomato-based sauce with cumin and chilies with very little sugar.
Our sauce depends on what we grill. Ribs usually get the sweet tomato-based sauce sometimes including fruit purees of ripe mango, tropical ripe guavas, or juicy peaches. Burgers are prime for flavored aioli or chunky relishes. Chicken is a good palette for thinned-out hoisin sauce. Steaks get Chimichurri or Compound Butter.
Chimichurri is vibrantly green when you first make it. After a few hours in the vinegar, the parsley and cilantro will become a dark greenish-brown-gray olive color. The change in color does not ruin the Chimichurri; it deepens the flavor. Store the Chimichurri in the refrigerator for three months, if it lasts that long.
My Recipe: CHIMICHURRI makes approx 1 cup
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely minced
½ bunch cilantro, finely minced
1 t dried oregano, crushed
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 t red pepper flakes
1 T kosher salt
1 c red wine vinegar
¼ c canola oil
In a non-reactive mixing bowl, add red wine vinegar, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, and kosher salt; allow to marinate for 10 – 15 minutes
Add finely chopped parsley, cilantro, garlic, and canola oil; taste and adjust seasoning
Tarragon-Dijon Compound Butter – there is not much to say about this luscious topping that the title alone does not say. I take unsalted butter and flavor it with my favorite herbs spices, citrus zest, and Dijon mustard. Everything is interchangeable in this recipe except the butter, kosher salt, and cracked black pepper, which serve as the blank canvas to hold any flavors you want.
For long-term storage, freeze compound butter like a log of cookie dough wrapped in parchment or wax paper and covered in plastic wrap. To serve, slice thinly and top just grilled steak. The heat from the steak will melt the compound butter to release an instant sauce. Compound butters are also good on pan-seared chicken breasts; roasted lamb chops; tossed with hot pasta; spread on roasted or grilled corn on the cob; or even used as a spread for warm, crusty bread.
My Recipe: TARRAGON-DIJON COMPOUND BUTTER MAKES 1 log
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
½ c fresh tarragon, finely chopped
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T whole grain Dijon mustard
1 t lemon zest
1 t kosher salt
½ t cracked black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well; taste and adjust seasoning; set in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to firm
Lay out a large square of parchment or wax paper; spread compound butter horizontally across the paper and roll into a log; twist the ends; label and date the log
Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze until ready for use
Keeping a BBQ simple is the key to enjoying it as much as the friends and family that you invite. Putting out minimal effort for maximum flavor result is an extra-added blessing to the host and the cook. Make the recipes above days in advance and then on the day of the BBQ, set out your condiments; receive your guests; and watch them ladle, spread, and dip into the summer lovin’…. Make sure to get your plate as well.
always in good T.A.S.T.E – cause you gottatastethis!